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Beginnings and endings hold a powerful significance.

Photographers have dubbed it the golden hour. Not literally 60 minutes, the term refers to that brief period just after sunrise or just before sunset, when the sun lingers on the horizon. Its low angle scatters the blue light and diffuses more red into the atmosphere. It lengthens shadows, softens hard edges and creates a unique ambiance eagerly sought by poets and painters. There’s a lot more to it than straight up science. For the Christian, it’s profoundly spiritual. The heavens, after all, declare the glory of God.

As I wandered along the beach in Barbados one December morning, I wanted desperately to capture that singular beauty with my camera. But of course pictures don’t do it justice. So I tried to describe it to myself and etch it into memory with words. My vocabulary fell short of the magnificent reality surrounding me. I breathed in the Caribbean air, felt the humid breeze on my skin, listened to the rhythmic waves. Put it all together and it’s more than the sum of its parts. It resonates with something deep inside of me, carrying with it a peaceful quality – Eden-like. The words of the hymn writer came to mind, “Morning has broken, like the first morning.” It has to be lived to be understood and I reckon anyone who’s ever truly watched a sunrise or sunset knows what I’m talking about.

Beginnings and endings hold a powerful significance. 

We see it played out in marriage. Newlyweds bask in the novelty of romance. Inevitably the glow is dispersed by the glare of the daily grind. But think about what happens as “sunset” approaches in a lifelong relationship and time together draws to a close. As an oyster produces a pearl around a grain of sand, the marriage takes on a precious lustre that comes from year after year of ordinary living. Layers of commitment and faith outshine any honeymoon. It’s the reward of those in it for the long haul.

Father of Lights
In these waning days of 2017 I attended a funeral for a dear friend of the family, a woman I wrote about a few months ago in this column. Mrs. Lindeboom went home to the Lord last weekend. Her family and her pastor spoke fondly of her at the service, casting memories of her in a soft, loving light. We all hope for such a eulogy (literally a good word). But the truly golden aspect of her life came from the light of Christ as her Saviour and the glory due to God for another soul saved. We do not mourn as those who have no hope. After 92 years on this earth, that’s the truth that Mrs. L wanted us to hear at her funeral.

And now a brand new year is dawning, lurking there on the horizon with all its potential. I have no idea what the 365 days ahead will bring. The Bible tells me not to worry about tomorrow, since every day has enough trouble of its own. So trouble is guaranteed. On the other hand, each day of life is ordained for me by God. Therefore I can expect that tomorrow will also bring blessings. In the middle of the book of Lamentations (arguably the saddest book in the Bible) we’re reminded that God’s mercies are new every morning. 

Experience tells me that running on my own steam soon leads to frustration and exhaustion. I may start the year with enthusiasm and big ideas, but before long, I wear down and lose that initial passion. My steady pace becomes a half-hearted limp. I don’t even have the strength to pray. The Puritan writer Thomas Watson sums it up in one painfully true statement – “Christ went more readily to the cross than we do to the throne of grace.” What a foolish way to live.

So as I stand on the threshold of 2018, instead of trying capture the light, I resolve to keep my eyes on the giver of every good and perfect gift, the Father of Lights. I pray he will help me remember that he knows the end from the beginning and that all of it is for his glory and my good. 
Happy New Year!   

  • Heidi VanderSlikke lives on a farm in Mapleton Township with her husband Jack. They share their home with a gigantic Golden Retriever named Norton, who thinks he's a lap dog. Heidi and Jack have three happily married children and seven delightful grandkids.

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